Chapter 21

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Ben Kenobi’s ears stung as he trudged up a snowy slope among the towering trees of Alderaan. He felt the subtle texture, pressure and warmth of another hand in his. Daniah’s hand.

Daniah and he visited this spot in the Yudals right after the first big frost. It's been three years since this memory, and it feels like yesterday. It still amazed Ben that a sensationary captured this level of detail, even the motion of mucus sliding down the back of his mouth.

Ben observed the ice thickly coating the leaves. With a gust of wind, a shower of icy leaves fell around them; another gust, and an additinal volley was cast down. Many shattered upon hitting the ground. All reflected the sun’s light with a patchy glaze.

Daniah bent down and picked up one of the leaves. Gently she pulled apart a huge piece of ice from the rusted golden brown. Lifting it up so light passed through, the texture and veins of the leaf were distinctly traced upon the ice.

She set it in Ben’s hand, the ice's touch chilling. So beautiful. It was one of the most wonderful things Ben had ever seen. Beauty like this was for his soul, a delight in witnessing what the force danced into being.

He and Daniah picked up other fallen offerings, and competed to see who could pull apart the most perfect ice cast from a leaf. Whenever we did this and I won, she punched me and accused me of using the force to help wrest the ice from the leaf. Ben smiled. I didn’t cheat. That often.

On this particular visit, Daniah found the best specimen, with flecks of the original leaf still embedded in the glass. She gloated playfully, as Ben held his arms around her waist. He could smell her hair, the perfume she used, and see the frost bejeweling her midnight auburn hair. She left his embrace and turned towards him.

Ben studied her features; her flushed cheeks, slightly cleft chin, hazel eyes, and wide grin. We were happy then. But I had my duties; I couldn't continue on selfishly, when there was others' happiness to consider. And yet, here I am watching this. Why? The question vexed him more than he cared to admit. What's wrong with you, Ben? Perhaps all needed to give a nod to another life and respect what might have been.

In the sensationary, Daniah grabbed his hand and they entered further into the forest.

* * *

Ben's eyes flicked open, his mind jolted by a neural alert he’d set. Can’t reminisce about old times forever. Closing the sensationary, he rolled out of his cot. He activated his cyes’ galactic chronometer and glanced at the time hovering in the left corner of his field of vision: 23:10 GST.

His group, comprising of Fett, himself, and soldiers they selected, had traveled aboard the Torment's End for the past 2 hours in hyperspace. Getting everyone situated promptly for the journey had been hectic, but they'd made good time. Now it was roughly 25 minutes before they rendezvoused with the Halcyon and Stormsong in a hypercomm capable region of space.

The Jedi freshened up and put on his uniform, judging it time to mingle with the crew and assess their feelings. Detecting their emotions with the force wasn't everything, since having a feeling said nothing about a person's capacity to manage it. But it gave clues of whom to worry about.

He left his quarters and headed down a corridor towards the common room when his force-enhanced perceptions heard the conversations of troopers inside. He paused and listened, interested to know what the crew said when he wasn’t around.

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